by Happy Carlock '15
Washington and Lee students, alumni and parents gathered in Washington on March 15 to celebrate the memory of Kelsey Durkin '14, who died in a car accident on Dec. 3, 2013.
Durkin's Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters, pre-orientation group members, fellow Shepherd Poverty students and friends participated in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K in her honor.
Students collaborated with young alumni and members of the W&L administration to form a race team called A Promise for Kelsey. In joining the team, students and alumni pledged not to drink and drive. Camie Carlock '13 helped organize the event.
"We were all talking this tragedy through, trying to put into words our sorrow, and wanted to be in Lexington so badly to support all of our friends there," Carlock said. "And Katie Boe '13 proposed the idea of running the D.C. Half Marathon and 5K as a way to come together."
Carlock worked with Lauren Jensen '02, W&L's assistant director of annual giving, to set up a donation website for the Kelsey Durkin Memorial Fund, which benefits the Shepherd Poverty Program. Students raised nearly $1,400 selling T-shirts in Elrod Commons and online. They also handed out bracelets to remind students of the promise.
"Social media was our main way to get in touch with students, alumni and representatives of the University," Carlock said. "I was amazed by the people that would reach out to me and say, 'I can get us a discount for the race registration,' or 'I want to help make T-shirts.' "
Ali Norton '16 is from Durkin's hometown of New Canaan, Conn., and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She ran the half marathon in Durkin's honor.
"I'm really glad that we all could come together and participate, and remember Kelsey and how enthusiastic and supportive of a friend she was," Norton said. "It was like she was here today with us."
Alumni from all over the country reunited in Washington to participate in the race or to encourage the team. The parents of Gingy Dixon '16 set up a W&L cheer station at mile six, and Noel Price '13 joined most of her Kappa pledge class in running the race.
"When you get with your W&L friends, and when you're with that community again, it feels like college," she said. "I think it's just special that we got to all come and do this together to celebrate Kelsey, and also to celebrate the friendships that we've made."
A Promise for Kelsey had 45 runners and 42 supporters at the race. Eighteen ran the 5K, 24 ran the half, and three ran the full marathon. Members of Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta and Chi Omega sororities, ranging from the classes of 2011 to 2016, showed up to remember Durkin.
Runners and supporters gathered after the race to share memories of Durkin and to honor the ways in which she touched their lives. The race provided an opportunity for the W&L community to translate their grief into a celebration of a beloved friend.
"I think it's a testament to how strong of a community W&L is, that they can take such an unbelievable tragedy, come together as one community and get behind a cause like this," said Stephen Peck '13. "I think it's a great way to honor such a wonderful person."